Though few of us are completely happy with our bodies, some of us clearly hate our body more than others. This issue has clear implications for our physical health (e.g., eating disorders) and our overall self-esteem. But does how we view our bodies impact our commitment within emotionally close relationships? Could people be damaging their own potential to be in a commited, emotionally satisfying relationship by strongly disliking their body?
Research headed by Thomas Cash, a psychology professor at Old Diminion University, indicates that the answers to the above questions are a resounding, "yes." But, although poor body self-esteem is associated with a general fear of social situations for men and women, it only is associated with "fear of intimacy" for women. Fear of intimacy reflects the extent to which someone is willing to be emotionally open within an intimate relationship, and is willing to commit within such a relationship. It does not directly measure a person's fear of physical intimacy, although that is very much likely to be associated with it.
In this study, 228 college students were privately and anonymously asked a wide range of questions about their attitudes and beliefs towards relationships and their own bodies. Of particular interest was the extent to which participants rated their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with 9 different body aspects (e.g, their face, their weight, their legs). These items were then tested to see if they were associated with the fear of intimacy questions, which as stated above, assess such things as willingness to open up emotionally and to commit to the relationship.